Sunday, September 08, 2019

“Whose Image?” [Matt's Messages]

“Whose Image?”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
September 8, 2019 :: Matthew 22:15-22

The Gospel of Matthew is a theological biography of the most compelling Person has ever lived, the Lord Jesus Christ.

As we’ve studied it together these last two years, we have kept our eyes on the ball and learned about Who Jesus really is and what that means for us as His followers.

We’ve learned about His amazing genealogy. We’ve learned about His miraculous birth. We’ve learned about His baptism under John and the words spoken by the Father over Him, “This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

And we’ve seen Jesus begin His ministry by proclaiming (like John did), “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

He starts talking about this kingdom, and we learned through His teaching what that kingdom is like.

It’s a surprising kingdom. It’s an upside-down and inside-out kingdom that you may not have seen coming, but it’s full of blessing and flourishing.

And we’ve seen Jesus do miracle after miracle as a foretaste of the glories to come.

And all along, Jesus has been calling people of all walks of life to come and follow Him. To be His disciples. To put our trust in Him and follow Him with our lives.

He called a tax-collector named Matthew to do that. And He’s calling us to follow Him today.

In fact, He’s sending us out to call others to follow Him. There is a major missionary theme running through the gospel of Matthew. Followers making new followers.

To follow the Lord of the Harvest.
And the Lord of the Sabbath.
And the Lord of Marriage.
And the Lord of All.

And all along, Matthew has kept his eye on the ball and showed us Who Jesus is.

And it all came to a head in chapter 16 when Jesus asked them the question, “Who do you say that I am?”

And the answer was, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And from that time on, Jesus has been heading towards Jerusalem and this last fateful week. Holy Week. Passion Week. The Crucial Week where Jesus is on an unswerving course to the Cross.

The One Who was transfigured, and the Father said it again then, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

This One Who was transfigured was going to be disfigured.

This One Who healed others was going to suffer under shame.

This One Who saved others would not save Himself.

This One Who should be served instead serves and gives life as a ransom for many.

We’ve seen that Jesus knows what is coming.

Jesus is choosing what is coming.

That’s why on Sunday, He rode into town on a donkey.

And they were shouting for the Son of David! “Hosanna!”

Then on Monday, He was tossing tables in the temple, protesting the profiteering going on in His Father’s house.

And then He’s doing a miracle of destruction (one of the very few) and withering the fig tree because it wasn’t producing its expected fruit. And that’s a picture of the fruit that He expects from us.

And then on Tuesday, this story today also takes place on Tuesday, Jesus begins to wrestle in public with the Jewish Religious Authorities.

They want to know by what authority He is doing what He does.

And Jesus answers them by asking questions that revealed their bankruptcy.

“John’s baptism–where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?”

Remember that?

He kind of put them between a rock and hard place, didn’t He?

They said, “We don’t know.” Because they didn’t want to know.

And then Jesus basically answers the question with three parables that all show that His authority comes from God.

Parables that call people to repent while there is still time.

Because time is running out.

And the kingdom is coming because the king has arrived.

Well the Pharisees are not yet done.

They are not happy about how this is going, but they are not giving up.

In today’s story (verses 15 through 22), they try to spring a trap on Jesus.

They try to put Jesus between a Rock and Hard Place.

{Pro-tip, never try to put Jesus between a Rock and Hard Place. It never goes well for you.}

But these folks have not yet learned that lesson.

Jesus silences them, basically with a question. He turns the tables on them with a simple question and a simple statement, but very profound.

It’s boils down to this, “Whose Image Is This?”

“Whose Image?”

They think they’ve got Him cornered.

They don’t like what He’s been saying.

They especially didn’t like that part where He told the story about the Son who was killed by the wicked tenants and how the owner of the vineyard came back and killed those who killed His Son.

And they especially didn’t like the story when the king destroyed the city because they had rejected His Son and refused to come to His wedding banquet.

They didn’t like where this was going, and they had to get rid of Jesus.

So they lay a trap. Verse 15.

“Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’”

There’s the trap.

First off, notice who is there trying to lay the trap.

The Pharisees and the Herodians.

Those two are not natural allies. They are natural adversaries.

The Pharisees were known for being very nationalistic and very religious.

The Herodians wanted the family of Herod which was placed in power by the Roman Empire to prosper.

Those are two very different goals.

But neither of them wanted Jesus to be their king.

And so they bring a “gotcha” question to Jesus.

First, they start by trying to flatter Jesus which is really funny.

Because He is immune to flattery, and yet everything they say about Him is actually true.

They don’t mean it, but it’s true!

We know that “[y]ou are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.”

That’s true.

Jesus is not impressed by status or reputations, and He more truthful than the day is long.

So He’s not thrown off when they throw out the trick question:

“Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

What’s the answer to that one?

I know what I want to be the answer!

I don’t like paying taxes.

Do you see why this is a trap question?

What is the Rock and what is the Hard Place?

If Jesus answers that paying taxes to Caesar is wrong, then He’ll get into trouble with Caesar. With Rome.

The people will love it.

But the Empire will not.

And Jesus will get in trouble.

The Herodians would report Him to the Romans.

But the Hard Place?

If Jesus says that it is right to pay taxes to Caesar, the Pharisees will report Him to the people.

And He’ll lose popularity as being in league with Rome.

And that’s exactly what they want.

They want Him to lose popularity.

They could do something about Him if He wasn’t so popular.

But did you hear those people when He came in on the donkey?

The Pharisees care so much about popularity.

They don’t really care about truth.

So, they think they have Him.

But they never have Him.

“Is it right for to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

What is the answer to that one?

What if we don’t like what Caesar does with our taxes?

Well, Jesus sees right through them.

He knows that they are trying to flatter Him and butter Him up.

Jesus never goes for that.  Don’t try it with Him.  V.18

“But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?  Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar's,’ they replied. Then he said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.’ When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.”

Jesus says, “Give me a coin.”

Interestingly, they have one. Right? They have already answered their question for themselves. They carry around these coins.

These are Roman coins.

This is a picture of one.

This is one minted during the reign of Caesar Augustus.

During Jesus’ day, Tiberius was Caesar. And his coins said in Latin on them, “Tiberius Caesar, Augustus, son of divine Augustus.”

How do you think the Jews would have felt about coins like that?

But they had ‘em.  They used ‘em.

They paid their taxes with them.

This tax is specifically the poll tax. It wasn’t the taxes that the tax-collectors picked up, these were just the “privilege to breath” taxes that went right to the Caesar.

“Privilege to Live” taxes.

And they normally cost one denarius. Which is what Jesus now held in His hand.

And asks, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

The 2011 NIV has “image” instead of “portrait.” The ESV says, “likeness.”

The Greek word is “eikon.”


“Whose image?”

They probably hated to spit out “Caesar.”

But Jesus has no problem saying one of the most profound sentences ever uttered:

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

And that’s our two application points for this morning.


Now, this does not mean that Caesar (or Rome or any government) owns all of the money and God does not.

Just because your face is on something, that doesn’t make you the owner of everything your face on.

Ultimately, we know that God owns everything.

But it does mean that Jesus thinks that the “state” is legitimate and has a legitimate claim on our submission.

We should pay our taxes.

Paul takes this idea and fleshes it out more fully in Romans 13 where He say:

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”

Of course, that doesn’t answer all of the questions we have about relating to civil authorities, but it’s pretty clear in the main.

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

We, as Christians, should be making every effort to pay what we owe.

One “conscience-stricken taxpayer” wrote the IRS, “Dear Sir, My conscience bothered me. Here is the $175 which I owe in back taxes.  P.S.  If my conscience still bothers me, I’ll send the rest.” [Hughes, pg. 268]

And, of course, it’s bigger than taxes. Jesus is saying that we need to be submissive citizens to our government.

Not if the government asks us to worship it.

Only Jesus is Lord.

And not if the government asks us to sin.

We must obey God rather than man.

But even if the government is wicked, we must submit to its authority.

Pay your taxes, drive the speed-limit, obey the laws–even the ones you don’t like.

When Paul wrote what I just read to you in Romans 13, the Caesar was Nero.

Nero was thoroughly wicked.  He was Hitler-level wicked.

But Paul urged the Christ-followers in Romans 13 to be submissive to the government authorities whenever they could in good conscience.

Give to Caesar What Is Caesar’s.

That was a very unpopular thing for Jesus to say.

Jesus was getting close to Hard Place, steering away from the Rock.

But He was unafraid of doing the right thing, of saying the right thing.

And that’s not all He said.

He didn’t just say “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” did He?

No, He was much more profound.

I think that second part of His statement is bigger and more important and deeper and more meaningful.


He’s talking about us.

This is a US quarter, a 25 cent piece.

It has George Washington’s face on it.

Give to Washington what is Washington’s.

Jesus asks, what IMAGE (that’s an important biblical word, isn’t it? what IMAGE) is stamped on YOU?

The image of God, right?

Genesis chapter 1. The Imago Dei.

“So God made man in His own image.”

We are the image of God.

Is that image lost with the Fall?

No. It’s cracked. Like a throwing a rock into a mirror. It’s still there.

It’s not what it’s supposed to be. But through Christ it’s being restored. It’s still there.

Whose image is stamped on you?

So what does God want?  He wants you and me.

Give to God what is God’s.

And I think that’s what amazed the people when Jesus answered like this.

Not only did He give a straight, unpopular answer to the question, but He took the answer in a direction that forced people to consider whether or not they were giving themselves to God as He deserved.

Rome may deserve some taxes for providing good roads and building aqueducts and providing some protection from outside forces and minting useful money.

But God deserves so much more!

Do you think of yourself as devoted to God? Belonging to God? God’s rightful possession?

I think that one of the major mistakes in our thinking, especially as Americans, is that we often think of ourselves as our own possession.

“It’s my body.”
“It’s my bank account.”
“It’s my bonus.”
“It’s my car.”
“It’s my computer.”
“It’s my thought-life.”
“It’s my relationship.”
“It’s my life.”
“It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.”

But that’s ultimately not true.

All humans (even nonChristians) are stamped with the image of God.

“Give to God what is God’s.”

So here’s the application question for today:

What are you holding back from God?

If you had to write it down. Maybe it’s just one thing.

Or maybe there is a long list.

What are holding back from God in yourself?

Give to God what is God’s.

You’ve got His image.

He wants you.

He wants a life-changing relationship with you.

He loves you.

And He wants you to love Him back.

To trust Him and obey Him and want His glory to be magnified.

He wants YOU.

And you owe Him.

Because you, if you are a Christian, are double-stamped.

Not just stamped at creation with the image of God, but stamped with redemption.

Because Jesus bought you back.

Give to God, what is God’s.

You are double stamped.

Because Jesus paid your debt.

And it wasn’t just a little denarius tax.

It was the whole enchilada.

It was all of your sin and all of my sin and all our shame heaped upon Jesus.

And He paid the penalty.

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

Give to God what is God’s by ownership and by redemption.

Give yourself to God.

Don’t hold anything back.


Previous Messages in This Series:

01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet